Suffolk County is the first county nationwide to pass a bill that would raise the age for buying tobacco from 19 to 21. The bill restricts stores in Suffolk County from selling cigarettes, cigars, chewing tobacco and any kind of products that are related to tobacco, such as rolling paper and pipes, to people under 21. One of the lawmakers who voted for the bill, Suffolk Legislator Sarah Anker, said “This is about preventing addiction.”
During a long debate over how convenience store owners would lose business and how adult’s legal rights would be restricted, health advocates were happy after the 10 – 8 vote was in favor of raising the age to 21. However, gas station and convenience store owners criticized the new law and said it will cause economic hardship. If stores are caught selling tobacco or tobacco products to customers younger than 21, they will be fined up to $1,000 for a first offense.
Legislative budget analysts say the new law would save Suffolk County billions of dollars in long-term health care costs. Suffolk County will once again be a leader in public health law as the county strongly supported the ban of smoking in restaurants and all indoor places in 2003.
The new Suffolk County law goes into effect on January 1, 2015. It would be a good thing if the new law persuaded county legislatures to raise the age to 21 for buying tobacco in other counties around New York. Furthermore, hopefully in time the new Suffolk County law will become a New York State law and it will make young people less likely to smoke resulting in saving lives in New York.